It’s being reported the San Francisco Giants are deep in talks with San Diego regarding a trade for pitcher Andrew Cashner. Word is that the Giants also have some interest in Angels closer Huston Street.
Whether either of these two can help address weaknesses in the Giants’ pitching staff is up for debate. But one thing is clear: the Giants need to do something—not only for the sake of improving their inconsistent pitching staff, but to keep up with their chief competition in the National League.
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Coming out of the all-star break, the San Francisco Giants might have been the favorites to represent the NL in the World Series. Two weeks and two trades later, the Chicago Cubs have snatched away that distinction.
Picking up lefty Mike Montgomery from Seattle was a decent move, of the caliber the Giants could easily make themselves. But then the Cubs pulled off a blockbuster a few days later by getting Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees. Those two plus interim closer Hector Rondon give the Cubs a devastating back end of the bullpen.
The Giants, meanwhile, have made no moves, while there three best relievers are Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Hunter Strickland. Adding just one significant arm into the mix could change the entire dynamic of the Giants’ bullpen and make it considerably more effective than has been up to this point of the season. Casilla and Romo are excellent setup men. They’re both decent closers, but they have too many ninth-inning breakdowns to be trusted in the highest-stake moments of the playoffs.
The question is whether either Cashner or Street is the answer to the Giants’ problems. As Giants fans know from watching Street pitch for division opponents for nearly six seasons (first in Colorado, then in San Diego), he has been one of the best closers in baseball over the past decade. But 2016 has been the worst season of his career.
He actually had a good start to the season, but then he missed more than a month with an oblique injury and struggled upon his return from the disabled list, seeing his ERA balloon from 1.17 on April 23—his last appearance before the injury—to 5.28 by the end of June, during which he blew two of four save chances. The inflation was caused mostly by three appearances in which he gave up eight combined runs.
Street, however, has been better in July, giving up just 2 runs in 5⅓ innings, while converting his only save opportunity. The Giants are probably betting on Street continuing to improve the further removed he is from the injury. If he returns to his old form, Street would be a great addition to San Francisco’s bullpen.
As for Cashner, it’s more difficult to see what value he could to the Giants’ pitching staff. Between 2013 and 2014, he pitched well for San Diego, posting a 2.87 ERA over those two years. But then last year, his ERA ballooned to 4.34, and it’s an even worse 4.76 in 16 starts this year. He doesn’t walk an inordinate of batters, nor does he give up more than the typical amount of home runs. He just gives up a lot of hits.
It’s not as if Cashner lacks talent. He was highly touted as a prospect, and he is still a coveted player, even though he’s 29 years old and has only had two decent seasons in his career. Perhaps the Giants have identified some flaws that could easily be corrected to make him more effective. Or maybe they’re more interested in him for the bullpen—struggling starters often excel as relievers, especially if they throw heat.
But as is, Cashner appears to be a carbon copy of Jeff Samarzija: a highly regarded talent who has shown flashes of brilliance but usually struggles to prevent runs.
Hopefully the Giants are considering other moves, as well.